Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Anarchist Festival in Lewisham Odeon that never was - 1986

Lewisham Odeon opened as the Gaumont  Palace cinema in 1932, and was renamed the Odeon in 1962. As mentioned here before it was the scene of many iconic gigs before it closed in 1981, being finally demolished in 1991 to make way for a road widening scheme in the town centre.

In 1986, the Odeon was squatted and plans made for a London Anarchist Festival, to include films, bookstalls, workshops and a performance of Dario Fo's play 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist'. But it wasn't to be. I found this report of what happened in an issue of the Christian Anarchist zine 'A Pinch of Salt' (no.3, 1986) at the interesting Sparrows Nest digitial archive:

'The outing to the London Anarchist Festival was fairly surreal and bizarree. Planned to be held in the squatted Lewisham Odeon, the police raided the place the night before with a High Court injunction banning the Festival (anarchist paranoia has a strange habit of either being justified or perhaps self-fulfilling). So it was a farily deflated, undecided bunch of anarchists sitting outside the Odeon, wondering what to do next. The inside of the cinema was wonderful - a strangely floating space which hadn't seen a film in years but still the curtains seemed expectatnt... Eventually some people meandered to Greenwich Park and a rambling anarchist picnic was somehow held. The warm spring sunshine was subduing... Meanwhile the forces of law and order muster and clear all the lazy sun-soaked  anarchists out of the park onto Blackheath, where there was once a peasants revolt or something. However, nothing was particularly revolting on that sunny day'.

As The Ruinist mentions at HomelessHome the following day  'The festival decamped to The Ambulance Station [squat on Old Kent Road] for a discussion about whether the Station should become a London Anarchist centre. All seemed well with that during the discussions until a punkette who was living there said that the meeting would have to check with some guy who was living in a caravan in the yard whether using the squat as a centre would be okay. In classic anarchoid fashion, nothing ever came of the 3-hour debate and plans'

See previously on Lewisham Odeon:

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